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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Zerto Talks Disaster Recovery and Virtual Replication 5.0

Interview Zerto 

Let's face it, one of the last things IT wants to think about is, what happens when a disaster strikes.  One of the companies that has been innovating in this space to help alleviate that stress amongst disaster recovery situations is a company called Zerto.  While at VMworld, the Zerto team was talking to VMblog about Virtual Replication 5.0 which, among other things, enables enterprise-class disaster recovery with Microsoft Azure.  This milestone helps enterprises by utilizing the Microsoft Azure cloud platform for business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR).

I recently followed up with Zerto's technology evangelist, Joshua Stenhouse, to find out more about this and other 5.0 innovations include the industry's first hypervisor-based "one-to-many" replication for protection of multiple workloads across different datacenter sites, the company's new mobile application and more.

VMblog:  To open things up, how would you describe Zerto in one sentence?

Joshua Stenhouse:  Zerto is a Hypervisor-based, enterprise-class, heterogeneous data and application protection, replication and mobility solution that helps IT leaders easily build and manage hybrid cloud platforms, while achieving recovery point objective (RPO) of seconds and recovery time objective (RTO) of minutes all in one simple interface.

VMblog:  What makes Zerto different than other disaster recovery (DR) solutions?

Stenhouse:  The key difference is that Zerto is integrated into the hypervisor. This makes it agnostic to the hypervisor itself and the underlying storage - it allows you to go between any different technology you have in a private cloud infrastructure. It also allows you to replicate out and use the cloud to reduce the cost of having a physical DR site. Most importantly, it simplifies the operations because with Zerto you're managing all the replication and the recovery automation in one interface and one solution. With other solutions you're required to use multiple platforms and interfaces which makes the process slow, prone to failures and increases the overhead and complexity.

VMblog:  What's new with Zerto?  What have you been up to in the past six months?

Stenhouse:  Over the last six months, Zerto has been growing at an exponential rate. We have grown to over three thousand enterprise customers, and also serving as the backbone for many multinational providers - including almost half of the 2016 Gartner Magic Quadrant DRaaS providers - with ten thousand to twenty thousand VMs. We are continuing to expand our cloud provider network that enable DRaaS offerings through Zerto. So we have been focusing on growth, but also working to perfect our products as we've just launched the GA version of Zerto Virtual Replication 5.0 (ZVR 5.0).  

VMblog:  What's new and different about Zerto Virtual Replication 5.0 vs your previous product launches?

Stenhouse:  The huge difference is that previously we have talked about building a hybrid cloud platform, allowing customers to plug in multiple technologies together with Zerto. And while that's certainly been the case, it becomes a more compelling argument when you look at the new features we have with ZVR 5.0. With 5.0, we now support Microsoft Azure in addition to AWS so you don't have to get bogged down choosing  one public cloud or the other. ZVR 5.0 also introduces One-to-Many replication, which is truly revolutionary as the industry's first and only software capable of simultaneously replicating VMs to  multiple targets including on-premise, public, or a CSP to implement a true hybrid cloud environment. There is also the new Zerto BC/DR Mobile app, which allows users to monitor their environment from one single interface. For us, 5.0 is a game changer because it's the first true realization of our hybrid cloud dream; it delivers on the promise to protect customer data with replication to any different, and many different target destinations simultaneously. All with one software solution and one investment. That's the power of ZVR 5.0.

VMblog:  Why did Zerto feel it was important to prioritize support for Azure in this product release?

Stenhouse:  Mostly market feedback. In speaking with customers we have discovered that a lot of customers with Microsoft Windows in their environments have Azure credits, so they naturally want to prioritize using Azure over other public clouds. But another thing we're seeing as a trend is that while Amazon is definitely the number one cloud by far, Azure is growing rapidly as it's more focused on the enterprise with its graphical interface that's familiar to Windows admins. Conversely, AWS is more focused on DevOps use cases and web applications. So we see different audiences going to both and we support both, but a lot of our traditional enterprise customers are already using Azure with Office 365 and are therefore prioritizing Azure for replication. Furthermore, we've been working hand in hand with Microsoft to enable this development. We are a strategic partner of Microsoft and have dedicated Microsoft resources to help build this support and continue to build on it in the next year.

VMblog:  Can you dig in a little deeper to explain what "one-to-many" means and how it benefits your customers?

Stenhouse:  To boil it down to one word - revolutionary. The game-changing thing about it is that you are no longer constrained to replicating to just one target or, and depending on the use case, you are no longer required to use multiple, different point solutions. You can go out and buy ZVR 5.0 and quickly and affordably address more use cases than you ever thought possible with just one solution. It's literally the Swiss Army knife of replication because now, with just one user interface, you can replicate VMs within your local datacenter and restore directly to production from any point in time in just a couple of minutes. So it's going to give you faster recovery on a more frequent granularity than any backup could ever achieve, without ever doing a backup.

You can even have another copy of data replicated to a second data center, any different storage and any different hypervisor to maintain the replication. And then, on top of that, you could have a third copy replicating to Azure or AWS. With one tool you've got three different copies in three different targets, meeting all the different use cases. You can even have different retention policies, and every single one of them just seconds of lag behind production. There is nothing else in the world that is ever going to give you that. For a lot of our customers, it's the last DR solution they would ever have to buy.

VMblog:  How important is the channel to Zerto's sales strategy?

Stenhouse:  The channel is very important to Zerto's sales strategy. We only transact and sell through the channel, so we are 100% channel driven and we continue to invest in our partners and our partner programs to consistently support and enable partners. For example, in September, we announced our revamped Zerto Alliance Partner (ZAP) Program. The program prioritizes simplicity, equitable rewards and progressive, next-generation training methods.

Being a Zerto "partner" is more than just a label; we focus on enabling our partners to be true, trusted business advisors.  We know that customers listen to their partners, speak with them and go with their recommendations, so we need to make sure these partners know that Zerto is the best solution in the market. Partners are extremely important to Zerto and we continue to prioritize them.

VMblog:  What about both the 5.0 release and the new ZAP program do partners seem to be most excited about?

Stenhouse:  It's a combination. With 5.0, definitely the one-to-many and Azure support because of the multitude of new use cases that they now have with these features. They have also had customers asking them for these things for the last 2 years; "when is Zerto going to support Azure? When can I replicate a local copy with Zerto?" With the 5.0 launch we now have those use cases so partners can go back to their customers and talk about these great new features. The new ZAP program has different tiers of partners which will allow partners to accelerate their growth and go-to-market strategy by accessing new tiers of funding and promotion with Zerto.

One thing I hear a lot from partners, that they seem to be most excited about, is a new business case builder tool we have as part of the ZAP program. The tool allows partners to build out the Zerto use case with customers, showing them the benefits of going with Zerto, and that, essentially, it's too risky to go without Zerto. The tool analyzes customers' environments, calculates the cost of downtime and provides a document they can take upstream to secure the budget for the solutions they need to protect their business.

VMblog:  Finally, can you leave readers with a few common characteristics of a successful disaster recovery plan?

Stenhouse:  The first characteristic is frequent and successful testing of the DR plan. You're only as good as your last test. If your last test fails, then you're in a sticky situation because if you have a disaster there's no guarantee that you could recover, if at all, on a reasonable timescale for the business.

Secondly, a lot of DR plans rely on individual knowledge. It doesn't matter if your organization is a one-hundred person SMB or a fifty-thousand-person multinational company. I see the trend across the board, where core individuals are required to recover. The most successful DR plans remove the reliance on individuals by having the right technology and the right documented processes in place so that it doesn't matter who is driving the process; anyone can efficiently and effectively ensure recovery.

Finally, a DR plan not only needs to focus on the IP, the VM and the data, it also needs to focus on the small details that surround these things. Quite often DR plans get bogged down in the technical minutia, because it's so hard to address all this with legacy technologies. But once you have simplified the recovery of the VMs and the data, it allows you to build a more successful DR plan because you can focus on questions like - who needs to make the decision to fail over? Who are the contact people? How do we use these systems to fail over? How do we further improve the testing?

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Once again, thank you to Joshua Stenhouse, Technology Evangelist at Zerto, for taking time out to speak with VMblog.com.

Published Tuesday, November 15, 2016 7:03 AM by David Marshall
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